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Celebration: The Art of Caohagan Quilting


Thu 5 Feb 2015, 10:00am–5:00pm
Sat 7 Feb 2015, 10:00am–5:00pm
Mon 9 Feb 2015, 10:00am–5:00pm
Tue 10 Feb 2015, 10:00am–5:00pm
Wed 11 Feb 2015, 10:00am–5:00pm

Where: Taylor-Jensen Fine Arts, 33 George Street, Palmerston North

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Taylor-Jensen Fine Arts is pleased to be one of 8 venues displaying quilts as part of the Quilt Symposium Manawatu. Introducing to the region, folk quilts by the Caohagan Island quilters, the exhibition and sale will feature 30 handmade quilts. Begun in 1996 under the tutelage of Japanese quilting tutor Ms Junko Sakiyama, quilt making now accounts for about one third of the income of this 5-hectare island in the central Philippines. Today more than 120 islanders are making quilts for world-wide markets. Celebration! The Art of Caohagan Island Quilting is the first exhibition in New Zealand by this unique craft community. As Caohagan Island is small, all facets of island life – people, land and sea life, weather, etc. – are interrelated and interdependent. Each quilter’s sensibility to this interrelatedness and intimacy among everything makes his or her quilt a joyful, heart-warming and often nostalgic work of art. Viewing these quilts, particularly en masse will make you feel homey, relaxed and altogether happy! Each quilt takes approximately three months to complete; the quilter working all day to create what is essentially a one-off hand-made artwork. Made to be used, Caohagan Island quilts function as bed covers, sofa throws, wall hangings, or even as floor-coverings. They make great gifts for weddings, baby showers, house warmings and to celebrate friendships. As a special feature Junko Sakiyama and her husband will be in residence from 22nd to 28th January at the gallery to talk about the quilts, island life and the special bond the Caohagan quilters have with their island world.

Caohagan Island in the Philippines is about 50,000 square metres in size and surrounded by a beautiful tropical coral reef; this lush island is home to about 600 residents. In 1987, Japanese business man Katsuhiko Sakiyama visited the island and bought it; moving to the island with his wife Junko in 1991. In 1996, Junko, a quilting tutor in Japan, started to teach the basic techniques of quilt making to islanders who then took up the craft. Today the quilters run a cooperative where Philippine fabrics and sewing supplies are purchased in Cebu, a city about an hour from the island by boat. A person who wishes to make a quilt formulates a design, chooses the fabrics and sews the quilt all by hand. As there are no patterns each quilt is very unique and the only one of that design in the world!

Caohagan Island quilts have grown in popularity especially through exhibitions in Japan and in the United States where Caohagan quilts have been shown at American Quilt Society shows. At these quilt expos the Caohagan quilts attract comments such as: “The Caohagan Quilts are very special indeed; they are a unique expression of artistic freedom, full of love and make the purchasers very happy.”

Mr Sakiyama writes: “Caohagan Island is still covered by beautiful, untouched natural environment. The life of the people is intertwined with nature from which they receive many gifts such as fish, shells, warm sunlight, clean air and rain. The islanders readily share these blessings with each other and with the world through their quilts. The people of the island very rarely leave their home, hence they know very well and love all the aspects of the island including fish, shells, trees, birds, flowers, dogs, cats, buildings and one another. That is why a Caohagan quilt has a lot of love and happiness to give.”

It takes about three to four months to complete one quilt. When each quilter finishes a quilt it is judged by the community. If it has no ‘tangles’ and meets the quality standard it is accepted as a Caohagan Quilt. The co-operative then pays the quilter half of the selling price and the quilt is marketed on behalf of the group. The cooperative asks that those who treasure this work buy a quilt (or two) and share the happiness with the people on the island who are trying to make a sustainable, self-dependent future for themselves and those that follow.

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